Eight years ago, I predicted a 3xCD DLX RM of John Foxx’s “Metamatic” but in my naïveté, I had imagined that it was going to manifest by 2013. It’s taken five more years, but it has been out for about a month now, and I have had sufficient time to digest its stories for a suitable period, so now we are going to dive in.
You have been duly warned.
Following the breakthrough [artistically, at least] of “Systems Of Romance” by Ultravox in 1978, the band found themselves dropped by Island Records at the end of the year. Three strikes you’re out. Except that the band stuck together for another few months. Long enough for Ian Copeland to book the band on a US tour with no label support that criss-crossed America on the cheap – like he did to break The Police a year or two prior. Band jammed into a van with instruments and they used the house PA at each gig. Not how it is run in the UK where the band must bring their own PA to play.
The band were able to sell out the famed L.A. venue The Whiskey-A-Go-Go for a run of several nights. Obviously, there was a market for this forward looking band in America at the time. I suspect that the members of Berlin were all there taking notes. The tour was deemed successful to the point where the band returned home to England with a few Pounds in their pockets; which rarely happened. But the successful tour was not without its price. Namely, the split of John Foxx and guitarist Robin Simon from the band.
During this time, Foxx and the band had been writing and new tracks like “He’s A Liquid” and “Touch + Go” were unleashed on US audiences from coast to coast. Of course these songs [but not the unrecorded “Radio Beach”] ended up on the “Metamatic” album to follow, and the melody to “Touch + Go” was kept by the next incarnation of Ultravox to form the backbone of their own composition, “Mr. X.” But apart from writing and playing new tunes, all was not well within Ultravox.
Warren Cann reported that the band were held together by a thread of gig responsibility during this time and nothing else as the relations between the band and Foxx had completely broken down. No one was surprised when at the end of it Foxx walked, though Simon leaving as well was a unexpected. Simon had found a girlfriend in New York, but Foxx had his fill of the rock + roll lifestyle. Touring didn’t hold much allure for this introspective man who once sang “I Want To Be A Machine.” While cyborgs were still pretty far out, the cost of synths were dropping as the market was getting invaded by players other than Moog which brought the prices downward. For his part, Foxx was thrilled to see if he could do it all on this new, inexpensive gear without needing to have a band to get it onto tape. The Fripp-defined era of the small, mobile, intelligent unit was now deemed possible and Foxx was eager to give it a try.
Next: …Machines That Make Art